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Legislators Hope To Better Regulate Chemical Industry In Wake Of Spill

Reported: Jan. 19, 2014 7:31 PM EST
Updated: Jan. 20, 2014 11:22 AM EST
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Katy Brown) -- After the water crisis, one of the biggest goals is ensuring chemical leaks don't happen and to prevent another major water contamination event in the future.

State legislators are speaking out, hoping to better regulate the chemical industry and take action to protect West Virginians from incidents like the one at Freedom Industries.

And with safety in sight, the West Virginia Senate has introduced a new law.

"Unfortunately, it takes things like this to happen, but we need to get it right," Sen. Erik Wells, D-Kanawha, said.

A lead sponsor, John Unger, D-Berkeley, said the bill focuses on the registering and inspection of above ground chemical-bearing tanks.

“The bill's goal is to make sure something like this does not happen again,” he said. “This certainly limits the opportunities for this ever happening again."

Brooks McCabe, D-Kanawha, also supports the effort.

“My hope is that given the crisis situation that we're in, that we all work on this together, that we look at it from a proactive prospective," McCabe said.

Tank inspections are the main focus of the bill, and obviously a major concern, after emergency officials confirmed it had been more than 20 years since the tanks at Freedom Industries had been inspected.

Some said that is more than 20 years of neglect that led to more than a week without water in nine counties, affecting more than 300,000 West Virginians.

While it's too late to know if more regulations could've prevented the water crisis, lawmakers are committed to change now.

"You can't necessarily say, if we had these procedures in place would this have not happened?” Wells said. “The likelihood, though, is that the chances are it would not have happened"

With seemingly wide support for tank registration and inspection, the legislation’s supporters are hoping it is a step in the right direction for everyone's health and safety.

"The main thing we have to realize is: Water is critical. Without water and oxygen we don't survive. Citizens of our state deserve to have clean drinking water and they should never question anything that comes out of their tap."

"This is a call to action,” McCabe said. “I think this will have significance, not just significance for the state of West Virginia, I think the nation as a whole."



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